$1.3 million for refugees

Afife Harris
Afife Harris.
The Southern District Health Board is receiving more than $1.3 million a  year to cater for former refugees in Dunedin.

It reached an agreement with the Ministry of Health in March after months of negotiation but only released the figure under the Official Information Act. 

The released papers show the board prepared a public relations plan to highlight "good news stories" about refugee health. It has not been implemented.

More than half the $1.345 million was for community health, such as GP visits. The rest would be used by the DHB for interpreters ($187,000), a public health evaluation ($50,000), and hospital services ($211,000).

Annual funding would increase as refugees arrived.

More than 245 Syrian and Palestinian people have settled in Dunedin since the city became a resettlement centre last year.

The DHB plans to establish a full-time leadership position for refugee health to cover Otago and Southland.

Invercargill will receive its first intake of refugees later this year.

Interpreter Afife Harris said she brought a team of interpreters together through her contacts in the city. Their training included work on confidentiality and privacy. In the Middle East, confidentiality around health matters was not the norm.

"We have to be careful ... The people in the Middle East, they talk; in New Zealand, we don’t talk."

Mrs Harris was helping former refugees with transport and other matters outside of the language assistance.

Life could be hard as there were many issues to navigate.

"They need somebody to lead them and tell them ... what you need to do.

"They are happy, they help each other."

All of the former refugees spoke Arabic.


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